As a fan, it’s hard to criticize your favorite team when they’re in first place and seemingly have their post-season fate within their control. That is, until they put up a huge bomb like the New York Giants did yesterday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Make no mistake, the Bengals are a talented, if underperforming team, and there’s no shame for the Giants to lose to them. There is, however, reason to be concerned over the way they lost. It wasn’t a hard-fought game that the Bengals managed to win. It was a game the Giants seemed determined to hand over to them.
There were so many things that went wrong yesterday for the Giants, it’s hard to no where to begin. Perhaps the easiest place to start is A.J. Green, the Bengals’ super-stud WR getting behind everyone on the Giants’ defense to walk in for a 56 yard TD less than 2 1/2 minutes in to the game. Or we could look at the normally sure-handed Victor Cruz dropping a perfectly thrown ball from Eli Manning to open the 4th quarter that would have gone for a 38 yard TD. There was enough blame in between those two plays, and plenty enough throughout the rest of the 4th quarter to give even the most die-hard fan reason to consider where this season may be heading.
Teams with serious Super Bowl aspirations tend to take care of business against the teams they should beat, however, the Giants have made it their business over the past several seasons to play to the level of their opponent, dating back to at least the 2007 season. This is the same Giants team that dismantled the San Francisco 49ers 26-3 on the road in week 6. They are also the same team that had to sneak past the Redskins in week 7 and get a heaping helping of luck to get by the Cowboys in week 8. They’re a team who whose defense got upset over A.J. Green’s accurate depiction of them (he said: “I feel like they have a lot of holes in their defense”), and then forgot to cover him. Whoops. They are team that is loaded with talent at nearly every position, but for whatever reason, remain terribly inconsistent, all of which has to be killing Tom Coughlin.
The good news for the Giants is that despite their missteps, they still hold a 1 1/2 game lead on the Dallas Cowboys. With week 11 serving as their bye week, they’ll have two weeks to get their house in order before taking on the Green Bay Packers at home in week 12. For many teams, this might seem like a daunting task, but it may be the best course for the Giants. If they are unable to get up for the Packers, in a nationally televised game, then they may as well pack it in for 2012, regardless of how the division plays out. If Eli Manning doesn’t snap out of his funk, which has as much to do with his receivers’ performance as it does his sometimes ill-fated decisions, then nothing else will matter. The Giants may be a team that is loaded with talent, but time and again they have shown that their defense, no matter how good it is on paper, can’t get teams off the field when it needs to. Their offense makes mistakes at the least opportune times, and can’t convert red zone chances, either.
Despite this, the Giants are in as good a position to win their division as any other team in the NFL right now. For them, it has more to do with the quality of teams in their division than anything else, but that is how things work in the NFL. Their remaining schedule has them at home against the Pack, on the road against the Redskins, back home against NO, at Atlanta, at Baltimore, before closing the season at home against Philly. Even if they only play .500 ball, they likely take the division, and one would only have to look to 2011 to see what a 9-7 division champion team can do.
While there have certainly been many foibles as this season has progressed, it’s important for fans to keep their eye on the big picture, which is simply to make the playoffs. Come the playoffs, any team can get hot for 4 games, the Giants included. It’d certainly be a lot more fun if they played more consistently, but if all that matters is championships, I’ll take my chances with Coughlin, Manning, Cruz and that dilapidated defense. They might not ever look pretty, but they get results when it matters the most.
What can the Gmen do to gain consistency? Should they make any major changes?
Let me know what you think: